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Greater Rochester Program Says It Surpassed Wage Enhancement Goal for Thousands of Local Workers in 2021

Staff report

Dollars and sense: Organizational commitments to employee hourly wage of $15 or more more could boost greater Rochester’s economy.

Roughly 11,266 workers in the greater Rochester area had an hourly wage increase to $15/hour or more in 2021 according to a report by the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative (RMAPI) about its Level Up Champions program.

A Level Up Champion is an employer that has instituted a $15/hour or higher starting wage within their organization.

“Level Up Champions are committed to investment in their employees [which] is one way they are doing their part to address poverty in the greater Rochester area,” RMAPI says.

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) says the local minimum wage could lead to economic progress for our local communities-of-color.

“Close to half of all employees [earning] below $15/hour are Black and Brown in New York state,” they noted.

Rochester’s urban communities are predominantly non-white, so RMAPI’s Level Up Champions report seems to offer good news on the local economic front for our racially diverse urban residents.

The YWCA of Rochester and Monroe County, Finger Lakes Community Health, FoodLink, the County of Monroe, Lake Avenue Memorial Baptist Church, Rochester Regional Health and The University of Rochester are listed with a broader group of greater Rochester’s Level Up Champions.

“While there is still much work to do as we strive toward true wage equity, we are so encouraged that employers of all sizes were willing to take this important first step,” RMAPI’s executive director, Aqua Y. Porter said.

“RMAPI will continue to work with employers to encourage more wage enhancement while also supporting a range of policy changes that holistically increase the income of people in poverty – including keeping basic needs affordable, ensuring flexibility in benefit programs and pushing for income and wage equity in our region.”

Daan Braveman, co-chair of RMAPI’s steering committee said employers are making progress.

“Employers that raised wages in the last year [2021] have put this commitment into action,” he said.

“While they all face the same challenges of rising costs and uncertainty, these [Level Up participant] organizations recognized the value of their employees and the important role that wage enhancement plays in addressing poverty,” Braveman said.

More information about Rochester’s Level Up Champions, including a full list of those that have made the commitment, can be found at www.LevelUpChampion.org.